This flexible classroom activity is inspired by the television game show, Only Connect, as well as teaching and learning ideas guru, Russel Tarr, who runs a number of teaching strategy websites, including http://www.classtools.net from which this idea was adapted from and can be found in the Tarr’s Toolbox section of the website.
In terms of preparation, all you need to do is to gather 12 or 16 terms that are linked to a topic or subtopic that you are teaching. This information can include key terms, names of famous people, dates, events, anything which can be expressed in very few words and relate to the central theme. These terms can be typed on a PowerPoint slide or make up as part of a worksheet (some examples are included in links at the bottom of this post to my worksheets which I have used with classes). Personally, I prefer a worksheet in this instance as it gives students a record of what they have done as well as they seem to find it easier when working out how to complete the activity.
The basic task is that students need to recognise each of the 12 or 16 pieces of information and then they need to group them together into either groups of three or four which have a common link between them. These links are then explained by students, either written down on the worksheet or verbally explained in a whole class discussion. If you use this basic activity, then this can act as a review as an extended plenary or as a home learning task. However, this task can have a variety of applications which can be adapted to suit how you want to use it as well as the age or ability of your students –
- You can vary the sizes of groups and links made. For example, you can ask students to link three or four pieces of information together. This can differentiated as weaker students could link just two pieces of information while more able students could be asked to make more sizeable groups to link together.
- For a more substantial activity, you could give out to students the different pieces of information, and they have to write one or two sentence definitions on how they each relate to the central topic before connecting them into linked groups. This is more suitable to a new topic which you are introducing to students and can act as a main lesson activity.
- You can work backwards by giving students the links which they then have to match the items of knowledge to.
- Students can work in pairs or groups with this activity. By adding a basic points structure (for example 5 points for each correct linked group and 10 points for a linked group with 4 items of knowledge) you can introduce a keen competitive edge to this task.
I have found this a very useful task which students can easily engage with. It can test a variety of skills, ranging from the lower order comprehension skills to the higher order and more demanding explanation and analysis skills.